Bastion is a magical adventure with an old-school flair that’s feels just right.
There are days where I miss the charm of the old-school RPGs. Don’t get me wrong, the latest crop of RPGs are awesome an’ all, but there’s something about beautifully drawn 2D sprites going on an epic adventure that gets me right there in my Nostalgic Epicentre. So when a game like Bastion comes along, I have to check it out. So does it fulfill my need for some old-school lovin’? Find out in the VSOG review!
Developer: Supergiant Games Ltd.
Publisher: WB Games
Platform: Xbox 360 Also on: iOS, PC, Mac, Linux
Original Release Date: July 20, 2011
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Reason for Rating: Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco
The world is devastated by the Calamity; turning everyone to stone and reducing once-prosperous regions into nothing more than floating islands being overrun by wild creatures. The Caelondians were always told to head to the Bastion in the case of an emergency, a safe haven of sorts. Except you, the Kid, were the only one who arrived, besides the mysterious Stranger. The Bastion’s in pretty bad shape, so you have to search the scattered lands to find a way to restore the Bastion and, more importantly, to search for more survivors.
I Met The Kid At The Bastion; Looking Quite Dapper And Whistlin’ A Tune
To say Bastion is pretty is an understatement. The visuals are colourful and crisp, and the places visited are quite the varied sort, from dense, mucky swamps, to hot, smouldering wastelands. The few cities that remain standing became ghost towns; people turned to stone, debris everywhere. It’s quite depressing and leaves you wondering what these places were like back in their heyday. The animation is smooth, the character designs are great with interesting enemies (some you’d want to take home, others you’d want to pound into the ground).
The music is just as varied as the locales; some songs have a sort of rock music flair to them, others have a Wild West vibe, or even a East Indian flair. Some will have you tapping your toes, others will get stuck in your head. And I was all too happy to throw down cash for the Soundtrack on iTunes.
Something else that I need to applaud is how they tell the story. There is a Narrator (whom you’ll meet in the Bastion) and he will describe what you do as you’re doing it. He’s quite a low-key type of guy, too, I must add. What I’m surprised with the most is that it’s not annoying when he chimes in with his clever quips. In fact, it adds a level a charm to the game, I find. It can be sometimes hard to hear him over all the action unless you adjust the sound levels in the Options Screen.
Presentation is very slick overall.
The Kid Wasn’t Much For Small Talk; He Let His Hammer Speak For Him
Exploring the different areas in Bastion is unique to say the least. When you first enter a new area, you only see your immediate surroundings, as if you were on a tiny square island. A path will form right underneath your feet as you move closer toward the edge of the land you’re on. Of course, you might be at the wrong edge and fall, but luckily, you’ll just lose a bit of life, so it’s not too bad. You don’t have a map of the area, but you won’t get lost as the path you travel to get to the end is quite linear. Once you’ve left a level, you can’t go back, so if you want to find everything you have to do it in one shot. It’s unfortunate, but makes sense considering that the places visited are moments away from completely collapsing.
Since this is an Action-RPG, you will earn Experience Points, and Fragments, the game’s currency that you’ll use to make purchases in the Bastion. It takes a lot for you to level up, but later on the game, you’ll have opportunities to increase the amount of Experience Points earned, making the grind a lot smoother. In terms of health, you’ll have a handy supply of Health Tonics at your disposal. You’ll have about three that you can use whenever you’re low, and the amount you carry will increase as the game advances.
Your weapons fall into either the melee or ranged camp, and you can equip two weapons at a time. They satisfy my need to smash things with a Hammer, practise my archery skills, or send my pet Squirt to bite at someone’s ankles. Bwa, ha, ha.
The Bastion is your homebase, where you’ll be able to choose which areas you’d like to visit next. You won’t be able to do much around the Bastion, but as you progress through the game, you’ll be able to build various foundations to help you, like a Forge to upgrades weapons, the Shrine where you can activate Idols to present you with greater challenges with awesome payoffs (make the enemies harder, but earn nearly twice the Experience Points, for example), and other things. These facilities can be upgraded so that you can do more with ’em.
As mentioned earlier, you won’t be able to go back to levels once you’ve completed them, but there are special training portals called “Who Knows Where” that you can access in the Bastion. These portals will not only provide you with the level-grinding areas needed to get stronger, but will also provide some background information on the main characters.
I enjoyed my romp through Bastion, even all those free falls I took when I accidentally fell off the ledge thinking that was the right way to go. The action can get a bit on the crazy side, especially when you have a bunch of angry critters jumping at ya trying to munch on your face. Fortunately the controls are solid, so if I made a mistake of sorts (zigging instead of zagging) I know it was my own dang fault. The general feel of the game throws me back to a time when I was playing Secret of Mana or Illusion of Gaia on the SNES; it just oozes with whimsical charm that makes me feel all giddy. It’s just awesome.
See You Again On The Other Side
The game itself isn’t too long, but once you finish it the first time around, you can play through again in a New Game Plus. You’ll start the game over from the beginning with all your stats intact, giving you a huge ass-kicking advantage and also the chance to maybe find something in the stages that you missed the first time around (remember, once you finish a stage, you can’t go back).
In addition to the Xbox Live Achievements, there are also in-game Achievements you can earn through completing the challenges in the Sanctuary building in the Bastion. There’s also a piece of DLC, “The Stranger’s Dream”, where you’ll have access to one more “Who Knows Where” challenge, this time revealing the backstory of our beloved Narrator!
There are also the Proving Grounds, where you’ll get to practise your skills each of the weapons you’ll collect. Do a good job and you can earn one of three prizes. Getting the Top Prize may take some work, but hey, practise makes perfect, yea?
Setting Sail, Coming Home
Bastion is a lovely experience that captures the Action-RPG spirit of yesteryear to a tee. It’s charming, fun, and hits all the right notes. It’s clear to me why Bastion was praised so highly by critics and players alike. If you still haven’t checked it out, please do so.
Near perfection. This game has some nitpicks, but very, very solid nonetheless
Beautiful Safe Haven
+ Beautiful graphics, great animation, wonderful music. Top notch stuff!
+ New Game Plus gets you started as a powerhouse
+ Xbox Live Achievements and special in-game Achievements
Damn you, Squirt!
– You can’t go back to past levels once completed, so if you happen to miss something, you’re out of luck
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Have you tried Bastion yet? What did you think of it? Let me know in the Comments Section!